Thursday, November 19, 2009

this is not a sears . . .

Repainting The White Oak Sears (4)
I know Sligo at Silver Spring, Singular likes his mid-century modernism, so this is for you. The Sears in White Oak (once the "largest Sears in America" according to Wonder Years creator Carol Black) is both a blast from the past and a sad reminder of suburban decay, looking much as it did in the 1960's.

The rest of the White Oak Shopping Center shed its concrete slabs and triangular column-things for some faux-Colonial trim in 1993. But Sears, which like most department stores owns its building and the land beneath it (making a much-needed redevelopment of this shopping center very difficult), held firm. That is, until just a couple of weeks ago when the store got a fresh coat of off-white paint. Nothing says "we are ready for the 21st century" like neutral colors.

Repainting The White Oak Sears (1)

They aren't done. Three weeks after I took this photo, they still aren't done with this wall.

Repainting The White Oak Sears

If you look closely enough, you'll notice that everywhere that has a "Sears" sign was at one time an entrance to the store. Not sure if it was changing store layouts, or a fear of the people living in the apartments that surround the store, but almost all of the openings have been sealed up.

Ceci N'est Pas Un Door

At least, most of them have. As Magritte would've said, "Ceci n'est pas un porte." (That's "this is not a door.")


Sligo said...

Funny, I was just thinking about this Sears over the weekend and how depressing it is with its bricked-up entrances. I used to get a lot of clothes from here when I was a kid.

I'd love to see the entire White Oak Shopping Center bulldozed and redeveloped if it wasn't for the fear that the bowling alley would be lost forever.

Cathy said...

My mom and I shopped here all the time when I was a kid. They used to provide pale green strollers for kids. They had some pretty cool clothes for kids at the time, and we loved those "Toughskin" jeans.
I saw Santa there more than a few times. And I think this is the only department store I got sick in. Green Slurpee on the floor - gross, I know. We cleaned it up of course. I felt really bad though - not to mention completely embarrassed! That's one memory of Sears that really sticks in my head.
My hubby and I bought a grill and washer/dryer there back in 2004. I don't remember those entrances being bricked up. That looks terrible.

Sligo said...

I figured they bricked it up for "loss prevention" reasons. They were probably getting taken to the cleaners by shoplifters and funneling everyone out through a limited number of exits made security easier. At least that's my theory.

Cyndy said...

I worked in the fabric department of that Sears when I was in high school. They used to sell fabric and notions and yarn there. It was a much nicer looking store back then, both inside and out. All of the entrances were open and the bricks were painted a shiny medium dark red. It wasn't very natural looking but it did look kind of cool. It probably was the best Sears around at the time.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Honestly, that is the WORST Sears I've ever been in. I've stopped shopping there.


I needed a hand truck and saw a nice one on the Sears web page. I went to the White Oak store, walk and walk and couldn't see where it might be. I finally stopped in the tools section and asked. I swear the guy told me that it was nearing Christmas season (it was early November) and no one is thinking about hand trucks. If I come back in January, they might know where those things are. I went to Strosniders and had my hand truck in the car and paid for in less than 15 minutes.

I saw a tv on sale in the Sears ad and drove up to White Oak after work. A nice man in the tv section helped me make the purchase and I went to the waiting area for stuff being brought up from their basement warehouse area. After about 45 min, a man comes out and calls my name. He tells me they had an inventory mistake and that tv is actually sold out. He sent me to the tv section again. The salesman voided the sale and offered me the next larger tv at the same price. Fine. I go back to the waiting area. Oh, another 30-40 min go by, out comes a manager who calls my name. Guess what? Inventory snafu, they don't have that tv either. Could I please go back to the tv section. The salesman voided that sale and then sells me the next largest size tv for the price of the sale one. He SWEARS they'll have the tv this time. To make things up to me, they throw in a VCR at their cost. I wait another half hour to 40 minutes. Whew, up comes a tv from the bowels of that building. But....the box for it is as large as the whole seating area of my compact car. By this point, I'm exhausted. Several Sears workers come out and stare at the box and my car. We took the seats all the way forward and dropped the back seat flat, then took the tv out of the box. With a couple guys and some finagling, we get the tv in the car and the VCR on the passenger's seat floor board. Happily, I drive home. I pull up in front of the door of my apt building and it dawns on me that I don't know if I can get the tv out of the car (the hand truck was a gift for my father, I didn't have one). Slowly, I work it out of the car without dropping it. I carry it to the front door, maybe 20 ft, but have to rest. I get into the lobby and most of the way to the elevator, but have to put it down and rest. I get it in and out of the elevator, but have to rest again. Stopped once again between the elevator and my door. Finally, I get it into my apartment and slide it in front of the entertainment unit. OMG, I think it's bigger than the slot in the unit. Completely exhausted, I just go get the VCR and move the car. In the morning, I had to take everything off the entertainment unit, pull it out from the wall, remove the back and slide the TV in that way. It just barely fit inside the space in the unit but wasn't able to clear the trim on the front. That tv is still in the same spot in the entertainment unit. It's getting old. It's not digital. It's not HD. But I'm not picking that huge spud up again until I absolutely HAVE to.

Oh, and then there was the time I needed a pair of needle nose plyers to fix the hooks on my bras, rebend them back to shape after they got hooked on something in the dryer. The tool salesman kept insisting I tell him exactly WHY I needed needlenose plyers then turned bright bright red when I told him and walked away from me.

Gary said...

We always wondered why they painted over the shiny red bricks, which I thought looked potentially pretty cool, peeking through their dull red paint cover.

Glad to know they were in fact cool, but not so glad to know that even the hint of them has been erased by off-white paint.

Merchandise pickups at all Sears are disastrous, but that's a problem with the whole chain.

chippy said...


I am glad that you pointed out the one thing that I have known about the Sears in White Oak for years.

Originally it was just a suspicion but has been confirmed a few times since my I first began to wonder why everytime I bought something there and was sent around back to pick it up the item wasn't there and I had to go back up to the sales floor and go through the process again. Once when I was buying a treadmill I had to this three times and each time the salesperson would point to the computer and confirm that it was in their wharehouse only to find that it wasn't.

Once at cookout I met two guys who had worked at Sears for several years when they were in college and they were talking about "the benefits" that they were able to share with their friends during their employment there. Those benefits were if you knew someone who worked there and wanted something from Sears, just let these guys know and pull around the back at a certain time with cash and in the car it went. Since that time I have heard with winks and nods about folks getting $50 and $100 TVs from knowing the right people.

A few years ago while walking my dog I was approached by an elderly lady from my neighborhood and she told me that her brother had passed away and she was selling some of his things and that I should stop by if I wanted some "tools and stuff". So I stopped by. There in the basement were tools galore. In their original packages with their price tags on them. Hundreds of them.Pliers to compressors. Hammers to routers. Most of them Craftsman.

Care to guess where he had worked?

Cyndy said...

Terry - I totally agree. It is a horrible store now. I hadn't been there for about ten years or more and couldn't believe it when I saw how much it had changed.